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ASSOCIATED PRESS, December 1st, 2002
2002-12-01 17:31:25

Diplomatic push as time runs short for Dec. 12 acceptance of U.N. plan to reunify Cyprus
By ALEX EFTY, Associated Press Writer
NICOSIA, Cyprus - Diplomatic pressure is mounting to convince Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to adopt a U.N. plan to reunify the island by Dec. 12, when the European Union (news - web sites) is to accept Cyprus and nine other new members.

Failure could thwart EU membership expansion plans at the upcoming summit in Copenhagen and likely would gravely worsen Greek-Turkish relations.

The EU position is that Cyprus will be admitted even without a reunification agreement. Turkey has warned that if this happens it will annex Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus; EU member Greece also has threatened to veto the planned expansion if Cyprus is not included among new members.

"The time left for acceptance of the U.N. plan is minimal. We must reach a Cyprus settlement before any decisions are made at Copenhagen," Thomas Weston, the U.S. State Department's special coordinator for Cyprus was quoted as saying in an interview published Sunday in the Greek Cypriot newspaper Politis.

"Because this demands intense diplomatic activity, we are ready to do everything possible. We shall travel to many capitals and we will have to visit many places ... and other diplomats will be in the same situation as I," Weston said.

Weston was scheduled to visit Cyprus and Turkey this week with U.S. Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman. British Foreign Minister Jack Straw and his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, both were expected to visit Ankara soon.

Alvaro de Soto, Annan's special envoy for Cyprus, also has been shuttling between Nicosia, Athens and Ankara in recent days. Late last week, the United Nations (news - web sites) placed a chartered executive jet at his disposal to save time.

"It is clear that there is little time left, but we are convinced it is possible to secure settlement on the main portion of the plan that should be agreed in advance of Copenhagen," de Soto told reporters Saturday.

President Glafcos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot leader, and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, have accepted the 137-page U.N. reunification plan as the basis for negotiations.

However, both have said parts of it are unacceptable and have ignored U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites)'s request to inform him in writing by Saturday of their objections. Both also have said Dec. 12 is too soon to expect an agreement.

Cyprus has been split into a Greek Cypriot controlled south and the Turkish-occupied north since 1974, when Turkey invaded in the wake of an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece. A breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north is only recognized by Turkey which maintains 40,000 troops there.

The U.N. plan seeks to unify the island into a single country consisting of two "component states," linked by a weak central government with a rotating presidency.

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